Director Augustine Frizzell on Netflix’s New Romantic Movie: NPR
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with director Augustine Frizzell about her new movie, The last letter from your lover. It is based on a book of the same name by British author JoJo Moyes.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HTE:
It started as an illicit affair in 1965, when a businessman’s wife fell in love with the reporter sent to cover her husband. It turns into a modern love story of a writer piecing together the lives of these lovers through the letters they left behind. âYour Lover’s Last Letterâ is Netflix’s new mystery romance, adapted from Jojo Moyes’ novel. The director of the film is Augustine Frizzell, and she is joining us now. Hello.
AUGUSTINE FRIZZELL: Hello. Thank you so much. I am delighted to be here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love mystery romance as a genre (laughs).
FRIZZELL: Oh, good.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Normally, we don’t put those two words together.
FRIZZELL: That’s right. It’s true. It’s not that often anymore.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes. Tell us about our two protagonists. Jennifer is played by Shailene Woodley and Ellie is played by Felicity Jones. Their circumstances are very different. Jennifer doesn’t seem entirely satisfied with her life as a wife in 1965, and Ellie is deeply invested in her career. But what do they have in common?
FRIZZELL: So I think that with the two women, they’re looking to find agency in their lives. And I believe Felicity – you know, Ellie – she’s a little closer. But I still think sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart and make some scary decisions, you know, especially as a woman her age. She’s talking about being in a long-term relationship and then about this impending marriage or its end, and it’s such a scary place. And so many friends that I have spoken with have been there. You know, they’re in their thirties. And we literally have a biological clock, you know, that says you can’t meet another person that you want to have kids with. You might never meet someone else.
And for Jennifer, it’s a different version of that in that she’s stuck in this marriage that isn’t what she wants it to be. And society’s expectations are so high for her to stay in this marriage and be the perfect hostess and the perfect bride. And she wants something more, and she’s kinda stuck.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, it’s a story on many levels. It’s over two different periods. You have two main characters. You have two genres, mystery and romance. How did you balance all these parallels?
FRIZZELL: It’s hard (laughs). It’s really difficult.
FRIZZELL: I don’t know. I mean, I feel like, you know, we’ve set out to do something crazy and ambitious. And it’s based on a book so complicated that projecting it on the screen was no easy task. And I feel like, you know, you do your best and focus on the love story and try to make it as rich as possible and then try to balance the two. women. Yes. It was really hard. I will not lie.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, I think it’s an incredibly ambitious and really captivating film. You were told it was your hot movie. What do you mean?
FRIZZELL: Yeah. It’s just, you know, sometimes you just want to put on something you want to watch on a Sunday when it’s raining that’s warm and cozy, and it’s not too complicated. It’s – you know, it’s just kind of an escape. It’s nice. You watch people fall in love and, you know, have those experiences, and it makes you feel hot at the end, kinda like hot tea. And also, it’s British, so yeah, like that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughs). It has this parallel. I understand that the story is very personal to you. You fell in love with your husband while writing letters to each other.
FRIZZELL: Yeah, we did.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, it’s amazing. Can you tell me how it worked? Because it’s not common to do that anymore.
FRIZZELL: No. I know, and I feel very lucky that we did. So we met once in 2001, and we dated briefly, and then we went our separate ways. And about eight years later, we got together for one night. He was in town LA, where he lived, and I was in Dallas, where I lived. And we had dinner and then we parted, and he said, hey, I’m going to write to you tonight. I want to send you this song. And so he emailed me and then I answered him. And then he answered me, and it went on for a minute.
And then it led to, hey, I found this stuff in, like, a thrift store. I will send it to you. And so that also involved, you know, a little note because when you send a package, you write a little note. And then that led to a response brief, and then a response letter. And it was kind of magical, to be honest. It was as if we connected to each other in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened if we had just hung out in person – I mean, maybe. But I think it was the way he expresses himself in writing that really allowed him to express his feelings and allowed me to know him, understand him and fall in love with him.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It’s a very beautiful story. Is that what attracted you to this – you know, this material?
FRIZZELL: Yeah, totally. I mean, there was that, and it was also so comfortable, like I said. Like, I just – I loved the idea of ââcoming to London and filming something on – you know, the French Riviera and something that seemed simple and not light on the plot, but, you know, i don’t want to – i just want to put something sometimes where you don’t really have to think too hard. You can just, like, let the images overwhelm you and just walk around. And it’s kind of the other aspect of this film that really attracted me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what was it like working with the two main characters? I mean, they are powerful and powerful players.
FRIZZELL: It’s the best. I mean, I love working with actors at any stage of their careers. I like newcomers who just learn, you know, their way into the film industry. And I like, you know, non-actors. But it was very, very cool to work with two people who are at the top of their game.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, take me to the set. What was the kind of energy like?
FRIZZELL: Yeah. We had all of these great experiences outside of the shoot, and I think that continued for a really beautiful shoot. We were all having fun, and I think that’s what I was looking for, just an experience of working with great people in beautiful places, you know, working on something that just feels nourishing. And that is exactly what we have.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I guess nourish isn’t a word I often hear used when I talk about something like that, so I’m just wondering, you know, where you think it’s coming from.
FRIZZELL: I don’t know. I mean, I think for me, I thought about it a lot because when you get ready to make a movie like this, which is – you know, it’s like a beach read or something very lightweight and – you kind of know what you’re getting in because these films – they’re received in a particular way. Like, all of my favorite love movies from the past, be it, like, âThe Notebookâ or âDirty Dancingâ – you know, they have, like, a weird reception. A lot of times they’re – I don’t know why they’re received that way. Maybe for some reason …
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Because they often attract women (laughs) as an audience.
FRIZZELL: Yeah – because they’re emotional rather than intellectual, I think, a lot. And that’s something women share where I feel – for the most part and not quite true – but we really relate to our emotions. And so I think for me I can watch a movie and forgive its lack of intellectual depth and just take something for the emotional ride, right? And so I think in the making of the film that was also very important to me, and I think the actors, too, felt the same. We just wanted to do something fun and airy and feel really good about the experience of doing it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, it’s an immersive film. It’s director Augustine Frizzell. Her new film is “Your Lover’s Last Letter”. It’s now on Netflix. Thank you so much.
FRIZZELL: Thank you very much.
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